East Carbon, Sunnyside cities examine reservoir dam issues
Mining of coal panels near the Grassy Trail Reservoir in Sunnyside has resulted in continuous monitoring of the lake's dam and surrounding areas by mine officials and the University of Utah.
East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine stated that he and Sunnyside Mayor Bruce Andrews met with the water resources board recently to discuss small landslides, seismic activity and the position of the reservoir's dam.
"The reservoir is currently being monitored by the University of Utah's seismological center and several other organizations," said LaFontaine. "We don't want to start public panic, but we do want to insure the integrity and safety of our dam."
Staff at the University of Utah's Seismological Center confirmed that they have equipment in the area and are monitoring seismic activity.
LaFontaine reported that a slide above the reservoir and possible collapses underneath have apparently pushed the dam as much as three inches up and out.
"Something I want to make clear is that movement has occurred at the dam before and is normal. So there is no reason to get alarmed. But we are taking every precaution and investigating everything," said LaFontaine.
Andrews shared similar sentiments concerning the monitoring.
"We met with the crews from Westridge mine last November and they agreed to continue monitoring the site for another year," said Andrews.
Westridge mine is a co-owned by UtahAmerican Energy and the coal production facility is located northwest of Utah State Road 123.
According to the Sunnyside mayor, Westridge began watching the area as soon as the company started mining the number seven panel.
The panel was located close to the reservoir and reportedly created a cause for some concern from the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.
DOGM was also in attendance at the water resources board meeting.
According to Sunnyside and East Carbon officials, Westridge has plans to mine near the reservoir again toward the end of the company's contract in 2012.
Officials challenge the company's plan.
"This is the way I look at it - I don't believe they should be able to mine anywhere near that dam or body of water," said East Carbon Councilmember David Maggio. "Just like Deer Creek was told to stay nearly a mile away from Joe's Valley, I would like to see them have a barrier they cannot cross."
Maggio contended that the Grassy Trail Reservoir is the only source East Carbon and Sunnyside have for culinary water and should be protected.
"What scares me is this - they keep monitoring," said Maggio. "Well, even if they had been monitoring in Louisiana when Katrina hit, the monitors would have been washed away with the people. It is just not acceptable for them to get that close to our reservoir. It is the only water we have."
Andrews does not believe the Westridge operation will get to the panels the company has planned to mine near the site in the future.
"The panels we are talking about are under nearly 3,000 feet of cover. I don't believe they will ever be mined," pointed out the Sunnyside mayor.
The East Carbon and Sunnyside mayors stressed the fact that movement at locations along the area around the lake is normal and there is no reason for local residents to be alarmed.
However, the mayors also stressed that the continued monitoring and the placement of a barrier defining how close Westridge can get to the water storage reservoir is something they are interested in seeing happen.
There are 79,500 dams at locations across the United States, according to the 2005 update to the National Inventory of Dams.
Approximately one-third of the dams pose a high or significant hazard to life and property in the event a failure should occur, indicated federal water officials.